The skid is over.
With a 3-2 win in Toronto, the Columbus Blue Jackets' season-high six-game losing streak is buried.
And the Blue Jackets were able to exact a bit of revenge on Toronto, playing without the services of several regulars. The Maple Leafs thumped Columbus, 5-2, in their last meeting, two weeks ago in Columbus, injuring Oliver Bjorkstrand in the process.
By virtue of their loss Sunday night, the Leafs will now face the Washington Capitals, winners of the President's Cup Trophy, in the first round.
“They wanted to face Ottawa instead of Washington, I'm assuming,” Brandon Dubinsky deadpanned.
You're welcome, Toronto.
The teams skated to a scoreless first period, and then all hell broke loose in the second.
Leafs left-winger James Van Riemsdyk put Toronto on the board first two minutes into the second period when he beat Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo from the left circle for his 28th goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Riemsdyk struck again, beating Korpisalo on a wrist shot high to complete a 2-on-1 break. It was 2-0, Maple Leafs, and the Blue Jackets were getting peppered, both in shots and scoring opportunities.
Everything was turning up Toronto, but then they started to lose defensemen. Roman Polak and Nikita Zaitsev both left the game for the Maple Leafs in the middle period, leaving Toronto with just four blueliners. Polak would later return, but not before the Blue Jackets capitalized.
At 12:32 of the second, Matt Calvert took a pass from Boone Jenner and proceeded to torch Toronto goalie Curtis McElhinney with a slick backhand for his 10th goal of the season.
Five minutes later, fourth-line right-winger Josh Anderson tallied his 17th of the season with a blast from the right dot that beat McElhinney high stick side. William Karlsson earned a helper on the goal, which was made possible by a Maple Leafs' defender blowing a tire and following down near center ice.
With 40 seconds remaining in the middle period, Cam Atkinson, who was benched for much of the third period Saturday, buried one as the trail man on a 3-on-2, shorthanded, to give the Blue Jackets their first lead of the game.
The goal was Atkinson's 35th of the season – and just his second in his last 12 games – with Calvert and David Savard picking up assists on the goal. For Calvert, it was his first multi-point game of the season.
|0 of 2||POWER PLAY||0 of 4|
“I hear Cam and we've played together in the past and he's always in my back pocket, so I just tried to make a play to him and he's going to finish that job more often than not,” Calvert said of the goal.
Much like the first, the two teams would play a scoreless third period. Toronto would pull McElhinney with 90 seconds to play, but the Blue Jackets were able to withstand a late barrage and hold on for the crucial win heading into the playoffs.
Korpisalo picked up his first win since March 18, spelling Sergei Bobrovsky for the evening. The Fin stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced, including a huge save on Leafs rookie sensation Auston Matthews with six minutes remaining. Just as impressively, Korpisalo turned away all 8 shots the Maple Leafs sent his way on the power play.
It's a good win for a team that needed a win in the worst way. And to get one on the road against a playoff team while resting several of your regulars is all the more impressive.
Not surprisingly, Atkinson was in a jovial mood following the win.
“We were joking with the guys who didn't play, ‘We don't need you guys!’”
IT'S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF TIME.
The Blue Jackets will face the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, traveling to the Steel City for game one of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Jackets and Pens split their four regular season games. Columbus took the first game, 7-1, on Dec. 22 in what may have been the high point of the franchise's 16-game winning streak.